National Rural Health Commissioner, Adjunct Professor Ruth Stewart acknowledges the grief and loss experienced by the families featured in the 60 Minutes program of Sunday, 6 December.
Professor Stewart who has worked as a rural GP for 30 years said each and every time there was an adverse health outcome people’s lives are changed forever.
“When a death occurs, it is extremely distressing for everybody involved. My heart goes out to the families and friends and communities whose stories were told by 60 minutes,” Professor Stewart said.
“The program mentioned that telehealth is replacing doctors in rural communities. Telehealth is a great tool which rural medical practitioners have used for years and it proved its value during the COVID-19 restrictions, particularly for people living in rural and regional parts of Australia.
“Telehealth is designed to enhance face-to-face consultation by connecting patients with providers when a direct face-to-face consultation is not possible to achieve.
“Telehealth may not be appropriate for all patients and sometimes the doctor and the patient must physically be in the same place.”
Professor Stewart said fortunately for rural and remote communities, times were changing.
“Telehealth is an outstanding tool. I will be interested in what we learn from a number of innovative models of care using telehealth and other modalities currently being trialled in western NSW. These models of care are designed and run by local health professionals and services who have a deep understanding of their community’s health needs,” Professor Stewart said.
“In Canowindra and surrounding communities, for example, state and Commonwealth health services are working together to support existing health practitioners. They aim at attracting new practitioners to the area who will be connected to a broader network of multidisciplinary health professionals, ensuring risks of professional isolation and burnout are mitigated.
“This will ensure health services are available close to home for those communities.
“Next financial year my Office will support the development of other models of care designed for and by rural health professionals and communities.
“My Office is working to implement the recommendations for a National Rural Generalist Pathway made by Professor Paul Worley my predecessor, the inaugural National Rural Health Commissioner. This Pathway will increase the numbers of doctors who have the skills, and support to work in small rural and remote communities and hospitals.”
The Pathway will provide a coordinated, structured and efficient medical training to a nationally recognised standard.
“Rural communities can know that Rural Generalists are the doctors trained with the right skills to meet the needs of their community, now and in the future by providing both comprehensive general practice and emergency care; they can provide care in hospital and in the community as part of a multidisciplinary rural healthcare team,” Professor Stewart said
“Because of this Pathway we can look forward to a time when we see an increase in the number of skilled and competent health professionals who work in, live in, and contribute to rural communities.
“Queensland has been running a Rural Generalist Training Program for over a decade and now has a new generation of enthusiastic rural doctors out there in the bush. If Queensland can do it, so can the rest of Australia.”